If you read Chris Pavone's 2012 debut novel The Expats, you already know he is an author who specializes in seat-of-your-pants espionage thrillers. And that effort was good enough to garner him an Edgar Award right out of the gate for Best First Novel as well as an Anthony Award. It's worth while to pause for a moment and think about that. When your very first novel garners multiple awards, lands on best-seller lists everywhere, and is praised by the New York Times Book Review as "Thoroughly captivating" it can't be easy to write the next novel. No pressure, right? After all, if the second novel flops the worst that could happen is some very public negative reviews, the quick loss of a fan base, and a publisher dropping you like a hot potato. No big deal.
Thankfully, none of this worries Pavone because The Accident is a delicious international espionage thrill ride that is absolutely headed to the bestseller lists. With a mysterious anonymous book manuscript that turns out to be deadly to those who come in contact with it, Pavone's plot drops the reader smack dab in the middle of the New York publishing world (agents and editors everywhere are lapping this book up). For bibliophiles like yours truly, what's not to love? Little snippets dropped here and there about the oh-so-familiar world of books kept me smiling even as the actual plot kept me on the edge of my seat....
The first character we meet in this novel is Isabel Reed, a down-on-her-luck literary agent who has received an anonymous manuscript out of the blue entitled - appropriately enough - "The Accident." This is the book, Isabel is certain, that will put her back on top in the literary world. The manuscript, as it turns out, is not without problems. A tell-all account of the world's most powerful media mogul, it quickly becomes apparent why "The Accident" is anonymous: it's also very, very dangerous. Isabel passes the manuscript off to the one editor she believes could see it through to publication, but along the way too many people - assistants, publishers, rights directors, even Hollywood producers - unknowingly put their lives in danger just by coming in contact with the manuscript. Throw a few CIA operatives into the mix and we're in business.
The narrative is told from multiple points of view which keeps the plot racing along, as does the time frame: the entire novel takes place over just 24 hours. For those who read The Expats, a familiar character will make a reappearance as well. And as much as I loved the setting of the publishing world, it needs to be noted that The Accident encompasses so much more than just that segment of the business world. There an overriding theme of the evolution of news and media ethics over the past few decades and what it represents in today's world. The ethical price we have paid for advances in technology are just some of the food for thought Pavone puts forth.
Overall, I see Pavone coming into his own here. His writing is more confident and the results are a sheer pleasure. He's not out to win a Pulitzer here. But I see another Edgar Award in his future.
Title: The Accident
Author: Chris Pavone
Date: March 11, 2014
Source: Advance Copy provided by Crown